My train from Salamanca brought me back to Charmatin Station in Madrid. While on the train I had been working on a speech that I had to give at a friend’s wedding, but it was turning out to be harder than I anticipated. There was still over a month left before the wedding, but I was hoping to have the speech mostly done by the end of the trip, so from time to time over the following few weeks I would stop to brainstorm. Anyways, I rode the metro down to Atocha Station and made reservations for my train to Seville. I could swear that the last time I was in Spain the reservations on the AVE trains were about four euro, but now they were ten. While it’s true that just about everything was a little more expensive than the last time I was in Europe, the train reservations had made the biggest jump. From Atocha Station I walked to my hostel, which was a short distance north of Puerta del Sol. I was actually staying in the same hostel I had stayed in back in 2012, though it went by a different name back then. By the time I finished checking in and settling down, it was almost 5:00pm. The plan was to visit the Prado Museum again during the free hours, but I didn’t want to get there until around 6:30pm to avoid the long line that forms at around 6:00pm, so I walked to Retiro Park and passed the time there. When I went to the Prado I finished seeing the rooms I had missed the first time. The free hours at the Prado are always crowded, but for me that’s an acceptable trade to get free admission into Spain’s top museum. As the Prado closed down everyone slowly exited and I walked back to the hostel. I bought some groceries and made dinner, though I had to navigate around other peoples’ cooking in the kitchen area. The hostel that I was in was very good, but the downside of that is that it’s also very popular, and being a Saturday, it was fully occupied. After dinner I did some miscellaneous things and later in the night I felt like going out for ice cream. I looked up one place online but when I got there it was closed. I looked up another place and went there instead. The ice cream was good, but seemed a bit overpriced. Generally speaking, I find that Spain isn’t the best place to get ice cream, just in terms of what you get for what you pay. I have no idea why that is.
The next day I was slightly thrown off by the time change. Europe’s daylight savings time ended and I had to adjust my internal clock. In the morning, after eating quite a few churros for breakfast, I walked over to the El Rastro flea market. The market takes up a long section of a city street and it felt like the whole community was out and about. It seemed much like any flea market you would find in America and I didn’t buy anything, though I’d be willing to bet that you could probably find something nice if you looked hard enough. I also saw something later that morning which I hadn’t seen before in my previous times in Madrid: a massive flock of sheep being paraded through the center of town. It was part of some sort of old shepherding tradition that happens each year and several hundred sheep come walking through Madrid, passing right by Puerta del Sol, and continuing off to somewhere I don’t know. In the afternoon I visited the Archaeological Museum. The museum focuses on the history of the Iberian Peninsula, (the part of Europe that contains Spain and Portugal) from prehistory to early modernity. Next to it is the National Library, which I wasn’t able to go into because it closes early on Sundays. On my way back towards Puerta del Sol I stopped by a bar called Museo de Jamon and got a pair of one euro sandwiches. I was expecting them to be small, hence why I ordered two, but they were decent sized and I was very full when I left. I’m not sure if a place like Museo de Jamon is “touristy” or not. I saw another one in another part of Madrid, so it’s clearly some sort of chain, but there were definitely locals in there. More importantly, the sandwiches were good, so I guess it’s kind of irrelevant whether the place is touristy or not. I returned to the hostel and got some blogging done, which I think was the first time I had been able to do so since I was in Sarajevo. A friend of mine and I were supposed to do a Skype call that day, but he was predictably not on schedule and nothing happened. I was feeling a bit tired at the time. Instead of taking a nap, I went back outside and just walked around the neighborhood until I was feeling more awake. At around 7:30pm I had dinner. I probably should have waited until more like 9:00pm because of those sandwiches I ate in the afternoon. To finish off the day I walked along Gran Via.
My train the following day was in the morning and I only had time to eat a few churros before packing up and leaving for the train station. I was leaving Madrid, again. And the thing is, I would be coming back on more time after eight or so days in southern Spain. I probably could have planned the route a bit better to not have that happen, but there are worse places to come back to repeatedly. That said, I was off to Seville. Southern Spain was calling.